Happy New Year and welcome to 2013! Strangely, I'm not going to start of this year with anything ranty or ragey (perhaps a first for me). No, instead I wanted to reflect back on some of the positive changes I've noticed in Moscow since 2005.
While the political scene is still just about as fucked as it ever was, there have been some improvements on a life-convenience level, most of which come thanks to the internet.
In the West we've been enjoying the great price and easy delivery from giants like amazon and ebay for years, but Russia’s shitty postal service and limited delivery options have always made life that touch harder. Sure, I know Russians that order things from amazon and they even receive them, but then I've also heard plenty of tales of people ordering Ipads/phones, only to have themreplaced with stones.
Enjoy that new iphone...
When I order online, I want my stuff quickly and I want it to actually reach me. I don’t want to fuck about with shitty customs or the even-shittier post office. It’s not 1930, fuck the post office.
But, the good news is, most Russian retailers have a website site (thanks, captain obvious) and offer home delivery.
Also, there are plenty of online shops where you can find better deals. So these days, instead of spending three hours on a round-trip to a store like M-video (Moscow is a big place and getting around takes a while), I can order stuff online and get it delivered to either work or home. No more wandering around shops having to deal with socially retarded teenager sales goons who don’t even know what they’re talking about.
Yeah, I know, it’s not the birth of democracy, but it makes my life easier, and thus, makes me happier. You see, for the past four years, I have been overpaying for stuff, knowing that I'm overpaying for it. It’s like coffee in Moscow, you’re getting fucked and you know it, so all you can do is lube up.
you can really taste the18 dollars in this Moscow water
But, that’s changing too, for some things at least. One prime example is yandex market. For once, instead of copying everything Google does, Yandex has come up with a few of its own ideas, my favourite of which is the aforementioned Yandex market.
With a quick search, you can do a price comparison and find the cheapest deal on a lot of different items. Not all stores and web shops are hooked up to yandex market, but it still saves a lot of time and money.
You see, prices here can fluctuate massively from shop to shop. For example, comparing my phone on yandex market, I got the cheapest deal at 14500 roubles (about 500 bucks), whereas most places were selling for 17000, right up to 20000+, check out the screenshot.
Another nice addition to the Russian landscape is improved online banking. I shed a small tear inside when I think that for years I have been physically going to the bank to pay bills and raging hard each time. Whether it’s the rude babushkas, endlessly asking ‘kto poslednii’, the rampant queues or the extra rude, slow and incompetent cashier, something about going to the bank would piss me of each time.
But no more. Now, I just use my alfabank online account to do all that shit for me. For fixed payments, instead of direct debit, I just created a payment template and so things like phone and internet bill get paid automatically.
A lot of Russian banks are getting with it too; even the dinosaur of inefficiently Sberbank has an online service that is decent .
Funnily enough, only about 13 percent of Russians use online banking since a lot of them simply don’t trust it (this is Russia after all).
I asked one girl I know why she didn't want to try online banking and she said “ I'm not a lazy person so I don’t mind going to the bank to pay my bills”.
Fuck that! Time is too precious to be spent establishing who is next in line in a bank!
why pay online when you could be enjoying all this?
Speaking of banks, another thing I noticed is that now, there are an abundance of ATMs. While that might sound strange, years back I remember many times being stuck without access to my precious cash. It was actually the kind of problem that you had to get sorted in advance in case you got stuck after the club with no hard currency for cab haggling/police bribing.
Now, they’re everywhere. Shit, alphabank even has a phone app that uses gps to point you to your nearest ATM or bank branch (oh technology, how I love you).
Lastly, more and more places are accepting credit cards. One of the first lessons I learned here was that you should always have cash ready, never relying on the pay-by-card option. While a fair few places still don’t accept cards, even in the capital, life paying by card is now a lot easier, and as a bonus, there’s always an ATM somewhere about, even if you do get stuck.
While I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting, that about wraps it up. There’s still a way to go and man would it be good if I could use my Russian card with my paypal account, but I’ll have to hold out on that one for a while.
Another thing to keep in mind is that I've been writing about Moscow here, if you head out to, say, Chelyabinsk, you’re probably going to suffer more inconveniences than in the capital – that’s a no brainer.